This is a long post but it’s worth the read. In short, Google and Dell have teamed up to install some software on Dell computers that borders on being spyware. I say spyware because it’s hard to figure out what it is and is even harder to remove. It also breaks all kinds of OpenDNS functionality. At the end, I’ll tell you what we’re doing about it.

About a year ago Google and Dell announced a partnership to include the Google Toolbar on new Dell computers. At the same time, Google was trying to convince the Department of Justice that changing the default search engine in the (then) new IE7 was too difficult (when in reality it’s really simple). Installing the toolbar meant that users would have Google as their default search engine in IE7. It also meant that Dell and Google would share some of the revenue from the advertising clicks that resulted from these installations, much like The Mozilla Foundation does with its Firefox browser.

The computer hardware business has razor-thin margins which means making a profit is tough. So the opportunity for Dell to get a recurring revenue stream from an existing customer long after the sale of the computer is more than just enticing, it’s huge. It also means a couple other things:

  1. Dell and Google have an incentive to make it very hard for users to turn this off.
  2. Because users can’t get rid of it, Dell and Google can get away with putting more ads on the page and pushing user-relevant content off the page.

They’re now doing both of these things.

The screenshot below shows what the Dell-branded Google search results page looks like when you make a typo in your address bar. You can’t even see the search results in the picture (800×600 resolution) because the entire top of the page and right side are plastered with ads.

This page isn’t being shown to Dell owners just because they have the Google Toolbar. In fact, uninstalling the Google Toolbar won’t get rid of it. Dell and Google are now installing a second program on computers that intercepts all sorts of queries that the browser would normally try to resolve. This program has no clear name and is very hard to uninstall. In some circles, people would call this spyware.

Google tries to explain the hidden software with this ambiguous statement:


Wow. Are you kidding me? In order for a user to get rid of this brokenness the person has to remove a piece of software called “Browser Address Error Redirector?” That barely makes sense to techies and it makes no sense to normal people. Would your Mom uninstall something with a name like that? I don’t think so.

Not only that, but due to some support inquiries we’ve gotten it seems like this software is being installed on older Dell computers that use some sort of automatic update service from Dell. Is this thing spreading? Ugh. How bad is it?

Let’s see what happens with certain queries and what shows up above the fold. For good measure, I’ve included what we do too, for comparison.

Typed               Dell/Google             OpenDNS
Digg.xom            Paid results            Automatically typo-corrected
Digg                Paid results            Shortcut / Search results
Digg,com            Paid results            Search results

As an aside, for every single one of these pages, OpenDNS provides an unpaid link at the top of the page asking, “Did you mean” If Google and Dell were really trying to give users a good experience, they would offer that, at the very least. They are certainly smart enough.

What do we do for the user?

I’ve included a screenshot of what OpenDNS shows people, too, for comparison:


Is Google being true to their roots?

I love Google’s technology, don’t get me wrong. But I think Google has turned a page here. They have now enabled a piece of software that is hard to remove and forces users to look at a really bad page. In fact, Google knows that this provides users with a dramatically worse experience.

Here’s a press release that talks about what people look at while using Google. (You can be sure Google uses similar technology internally.) Here’s a screenshot, with a red-line indicating what is below the fold.


The Dell-branded page doesn’t look anything like that at all. If you were to put a heatmap on the Dell-branded page… well, users can only look at ads. Dell and Google’s behavior here isn’t okay. Users never asked for this experience and they can’t get rid of it!

Moreover, this new “functionality” breaks things. Instead of making DNS requests, the address bar now sends single word queries to Google. This application breaks a lot of OpenDNS functionality our users love. Typo correction? Broken. Shortcuts? Broken. Google’s application breaks just about every user-benefiting feature we provide with client software that no user ever asked for.

We enjoy challenging problems at OpenDNS. But we’d rather spend our time making the Internet better rather than solving problems that shouldn’t have been created in the first place. We know that Google is capable of launching great products and services, but this isn’t one of them.

How is OpenDNS solving this problem?

Fortunately, we have a fix which does not require more client software. OpenDNS applies intelligence to the network, and we’ve stretched a bit beyond DNS itself to work around Google’s mis-directed efforts. Before I get into that, let me digress for a second:

Many of you have toolbars installed on your computer. Some of you have the Google toolbar, some have the Yahoo toolbar, and some of you have Zwinky (Don’t ask… I think little kids use it). These toolbars are able to see every single website you visit when you surf the web. Most report your surfing habits back to the company that operates the toolbar. Toolbars are something worthy to be concerned about, if only because so little attention is paid to them.

Okay, back to our solution. We did not want to enter the toolbar market. We don’t have any interest in it, and we don’t believe more software installations are the answer.

The solution to this problem was to route Google requests through a machine we run to check if the request is a typo or one of your shortcuts. If it is a typo or shortcut then we do what we always do, just fix the typo or launch your shortcut and send you off on your way. If it’s not one of those two things, we pass it on to Google for them to give you search results. This solution provides the best of both worlds: OpenDNS users get back the features that they love and Google continues to operate without problems.

I want people to know (and be sure) that we aren’t doing anything shady. We’re not spying on you. We don’t care what websites you visit. (Check our privacy policy.) Solving the issue like this allows us to fix the problems with Google (and future similar services) without having to route all your traffic through a toolbar or other service.

Below, there is a mini-FAQ. I know a bunch of you are very technical might have additional questions about how this works. We’re happy to talk about it. To keep this post from getting unwieldy I’ve made a page where you can ask all the technical questions you want. I’ll read the comments and update that page with answers as they come in.

Update: Danny Sullivan has a great write-up on this too.


Will this make Google slower?

No. We are doing this URL redirection on all of our servers in all of our locations. Loading Google should take no longer than it took before we made this change. Also, all of Google’s other domains like like and even subdomains like still work as they did before. We don’t re-route any of those.

Are you tracking or keeping a log of my searches?

No way. Absolutely not. We don’t keep copies of your cookies, your search history or anything else that would cause an AOL Search disaster. Any logs we have for technical debugging are wiped within an hour of the request, usually much sooner. We also aren’t in a position to log it for the government, and we aren’t a front for the CIA. “The Feds” already know that if they want to know what websites you visit they can just talk to your ISP, unfortunately.

Does this break anything?

Nope, but let us know if you see anything awry.

What about secure logins to Google? Can you see them?

No. Typically when people try to proxy SSL pages it creates an error. We didn’t want that to happen so we did something we think is pretty clever. We actually just forward your packets on to Google when you are doing anything that is secure. This keeps your data encrypted and ensures we can’t perform a Man in the middle attack on you.

Does Google know about this?

We contacted a couple of friends who work on the security side of things at Google to give them a friendly heads up. They said it’s not a technical or security problem on their end. Based on that we don’t think Google has any problem with it. The technology we’re using is pretty standard stuff.

  • This is just bad news all around. Two of the companies that I love and recommend to people the most are acting slimeball-ish on this one.

    It’s one thing for Google and Dell to work together to make sure that Google is the search engine of choice, but it’s another to break commonplace browser and DNS technologies to force advertisements. It’s just creepy (kinda like those geo-targeted personal ads).

    The one thing that I actually like about Google is the fact that they’ve always been very adamant about differentiating between sponsored and algorithmic search results. Did they think people wouldn’t call them on this?

    I also wanted to point out another thing with OpenDNS’ search results page that David really hasn’t mentioned (and is personally amazing to me). OpenDNS is creating REALLY impressive capabilities without ever having to have users install software. Shortcuts, blocked sites, typo correction, phishing protection – useful tools without invading privacy or forcing advertisements.

    There’s a right way and a wrong way to direct traffic to the correct destination, and I hope people can tell the difference.

  • pdabr

    Thanks for the great overview David and very understandable language!

    This isn’t the first and certainly not the last time that a vendor will do this kind of crap to users, remember the Acer activeX issue last year (I can’t find a link right now but it was widely reported).

    For a corporate or large enterprise this kind of software is less likely to be installed because of techs building custom SOE’s but for small & medium business who can’t afford a dedicated SOE or the casual mom and pop users it’s a worry.

  • Very well written and documented….hopefully Google hears about this….the sad thing is, I do NOT think this is new….I had a similar software application installed on my new Acer desktop, similar to “URL Redirector” or something….whenever I boot up a new machine, I toss my HOSTS file at it, for adblocking and protection (to an extent) and well, I was getting some weird errors on pages that contained google ads (pagead2.googlesyndaiciton or whatever the is lol) well, turns out it was some URL Redirector software (installed on this Acer) that was causing the errors…since or wahtever was routed to (localhost) on my computer, apparantly IE7, and this redirector software was “stuffing up” and giving errors…no not pop up dialog box errors, but just errors within the webpage(s) with blocked google ads, which happened to be more annoying than the google ads themselves…

    But yea, once I uninstalled that redirector service, the errors stopped.

    And of course, the box was shipped out, set to some custom Acer search page…

    And well, as an FYI, Acer appears to be Gateway (or vice-versa…lol however those mergers work)…so I’m sure it’s more than just Dell.

    Back in 1995 when I got my first Packard Bell desktop, I was astonished with all of the trial software and crap they had pre-loaded… appears now these corporations must make enough money from Google, by simply loading Google Desktop, Google Toolbar, and maybe an optional URL Redirector…

    Maybe we should take this case over to the guys at (originally hoisted as the Dell Decrapifier AFAIK :P….but obviously renamed for decrapification of all desktops that are bought from Wally World and assorted retailer chains.

    And yea, I think I’ve mentioned about this URL Redirector software within the forums at one time or another….I just cant remember when/where….

  • Yahoo loves me

    DON’T BE EVIL!!!

    Rats, now I have to add Google to the gray list.

    Black List:
    People who think they are Spartans because they watched 300

    Gray List:

    White List:
    Microsoft Game Studios

  • Google’s new slogan – “Don’t be Evil. Be very Evil.”

  • As any reporter will tell you, follow the money trail….

    David makes two claims:

    1. Dell and Google have an incentive to make it very hard for users to turn this off.
    2. Because users can’t get rid of it, Dell and Google can get away with putting more ads on the page and pushing user-relevant content off the page.

    The first claim is true, Dell/Google does have an ‘incentive’ to make it hard for users to turn off. However, the implication made here is false. This is an attempt to subtly convince readers that Dell/Google actually did make it hard to turn this off which is false. The claim that its “very hard to uninstall” is almost laughable, using “Add/Remove Programs” is the functionality people would expect to remove software. Moreover, the Dell/Google results page ( actually tells the user exactly how to remove it. I have never seen ‘spyware’ that is this transparent and user-friendly.

    The second claim then uses the false assumption from the first point to further mislead the reader into thinking ‘it cannot be removed’ which is obviously false.

    This is propaganda with an agenda, and I am sad to see OpenDNS drop to this level. OpenDNS relies on typo squatting for revenue, which means that they see this as a threat to their wallet.
    From wikipedia: “OpenDNS earns a portion of its revenue by displaying advertisements on a search page shown when their system cannot automatically correct a domain name typo.”

    Since the Dell/Google application will detect typos before being passed to their DNS servers, the real concern from OpenDNS is their revenue stream.

    This is not a usability or security issue. This is a business competition issue that OpenDNS is hoping to create hype in order to scare people into removing the tool and using their service so they can harvest more advertising clicks on with their Yahoo! sponsored results and advertisements.

  • Swoop,

    I knew someone would post something like that. This isn’t about OpenDNS vs. Google, this is about delivering users a great experience. That’s something Google used to do.

    We don’t make money on typo squatting. In fact, we don’t make a single cent when we correct typos. That’s the point. We’re giving people a better experience. I’m not sure how you missed that part.

    The functionality we’re fixing here doesn’t make us a dime. It’s typos and shortcuts. If you go to the box in the top right of your Firefox browser and search, it still goes to Google, of course.

    Appreciate the feedback though, and it’s definitely about the money trail. As for the software being easy to uninstall, you’re wrong. You’re giving way more credit to the technical clue of computer users than they deserve.

  • Paranoia Agent

    Maybe I’m wrong, but doesn’t “Browser Address Error Redirector” exactly say what it’s doing? Don’t get me wrong, this is pretty sketchy though. The worst thing about getting a Dell, or HP or…is uninstalling all the crap that comes on it. But “Browser Address Error Redirector” would immediately get my attention whilst doing the uninstalling, and I wouldn’t call myself “techie”.
    A second point I would like to make is, you say that this thing can be uninstalled by finding the prementioned name, the say that you can’t. Well, can you, or not? This makes you sound melodramatic, and takes a bit away from the argument, I have to say.

  • Dell and Ubuntu good

    Dell and Google not so good

    If you want a company to not do something don’t buy it. There’s a reasonable alternative that’s actually cheaper to buy than windows. Buy that instead, and watch the support sprout up.

  • Morgan

    There’s nothing surprising about this. I’ve been saying all along that google and dell are both large corporate entities, whose end goal is to make lots of money. Google’s motto “don’t be evil” is just that, words, fluff, to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

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  • another option is simply go to the manage add-ons and disable the toolbar and the browser redirector

    For years, IE users have been defaulted to the MSN homepage, search page and error page

    Possibly Google is subsidizing Dell computers – pricewise, they are at an all time low but the quality is still quite good

  • Another option is simply go to the manage browser add-ons, then disable both the toolbar and the browser redirector

    For years, IE users have been defaulted to the MSN homepage, search page and error page

    Possibly Google is subsidizing Dell computers – pricewise, they are at an all time low but the quality is still quite good

  • Indeed, I agree with David on this one.

    Your typical user has no clue about add/remove programs. In fact most would probably end up taking the PC to a shop to get “fixed” and then get ripped off even more. The average user is clueless. Unfortunately the average user will never read this blog or use this service. Or could care less for that matter.

    Just makes me sick. You pay for a PC and they install all this crap on there really without your permission. I’m sure it is somewhere in the TOS but not like they tell you this to your face.

    Anyways I really hope they all stop doing this. I see DELL probably will some time in the near feature but will charge users. Crazy! Hopefully they will get sued then. I’m sure someone will be very angry when they find out they are paying not to “buy” something. lol

  • David,
    You don’t make money on typo-squatting? How does OpenDNS pay its bills?

    Please tell me, who gets paid when someone clicks on the sponsored link results?

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  • ciscotwit

    I think this is very bad. It’s bad enough that Spy cameras are all over the place, now we have PC manufactures spying on what we do. It should be made illegal to do this sort of snooping.

    When the PC is supplied It should be supplied ONLY with what I asked for nothing, else. In future next time I buy a PC I will format and re-install.

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  • rlparker

    I agree with Swoop, and feel that he stated his case well. “We’re giving users a better experience”, is a subjective opinion, if I ever heard one. The original article lost a lot of credibility with *me* when I read the phrase “borders on being spyware”, because it is *not* “spyware” to anyone who understand s what “spyware” is, and how this differs.

    The use of that term in this context seems to encourage hysteria among the ignorant, and as much as I love opendns, I hate to see them employ such a tactic.

    It is also disingenuous to repeatedly and “loudly” claim that it is difficult to install and that “they can’t get rid of it!” when that is, simply stated, not true. If that presumption is to be believed, then managing to configure a computer to utilize opendns would be far too difficult for *anyone* to accomplish.

    I’m no fan of much of the garbage that is bundled with “new” computers these days; but this is not *evil* even if it is driven by “the money”; it’s just a “side effect” of how low-priced computers are marketed these days. 😉

  • Lev

    I don’t know why anyone would put up with the google toolbar, all you need to do is format your new dell computer and reinstall windows.

  • This software program is not exclucive to dell. I have been working in the tech support hotline for Gateway/eMachines for over a year. Back then they had it. they even had a known issue where it would redirect every page regardless if it was typed in or if they clicked a link.
    Oh and @Adam Gateway and Acer are not the

  • This is nothing new, if you had half a brain you could just remove the default search with hijackthis.

    This has nothing to do with Google, it is to do with Dell, as they are just a publisher like anyone else, and trying to make money through good ads. If you don’t like it, don’t buy a Dell. If you want something to complain about, complain about Norton Antivirus – it stuffs up Windows, and doesn’t work at all, and THAT is the hardest piece of spyware to remove.

  • These are the same people whom you expect to change their DNS settings?

  • Few days back I was thinking of buying new Dell laptop, now I’m sure I will not do it.

  • Great post David and thanks for bringing relatively unknown matter to the light.

  • My first thought reading this article is that you are trying to fire on Google (“Google turns the page… in a bad way”) while it’s Dell that should be addressed.

    I mean: WHO installs “Browser Address Error Redirector”? There’s some evidence that states that it’s a tool by Google?
    If I make a software that forces any click to be routed to the Google search, who is to blame? Me or Google?

    To me, Dell has a pact with Google, Google gives the start page, Dell forces the redirect in order to get more revenue.
    And that’s all.

    So, without any other evidence, we could just say that:
    1. Dell and Google have a commercial agreement.
    2. on a Dell computer there’s a piece of spiware.

    This is a cautious and correct approach.

    1. If you have evidence that “Browser Address Error Redirector” is from Google, so you could say that Google “turns the page in a bad way”.
    2. If you don’t have such evidence, you have to wait before “blaming” Google (using just ‘Google’ and not both ‘Google’ and ‘Dell’ in the title is misleading), since due to Dell’s history is more likely that it’s a Dell software.
    3. If you have evidence that “Browser Address Error Redirector” is from Dell, Google shouldn’t be cited here.

    The final question is: WHO is putting “Browser Address Error Redirector” on the Dell PCs?

  • caspar

    Hmm, the “Browser Address Error Redirector” or “GoogleAFE” are not in my “Add/remove” list. How can I get rid of this?

  • Rogan Dawes

    Funny thing is, the instructions on the google page do not seem to apply on my Dell laptop. There is no app called “Browser Address Error Redirector”. Nor is there anything called GoogleAFE.

    This DOES make it very hard to remove.

  • Gordon

    Swoop has some good points but I think David has a point. You all know that no matter how much documentation you create people will have to be able to:

    A. Find it
    B. Understand it

    I don’t think most users will get it. They will probably get it after someone explains it to them or they have to call Dell. If they even notice there is a problem.

    I have bought Dell in the past. My next home computer will be from Apple. I’ll probably rebuild it from the ground up just as I do with the Dell (which is getting harder and harder with every new version of Windows it seems). Luckily this is not the case with a Mac.

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  • TheSpoon

    Wait, how is “Add/Remove Programs” in the Control Panel, Uninstall “xx name” difficult to understand? I think the hardest part of that is the ability to read which, if your on the internet, is pretty much a requirement.

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  • Tomek

    I agree with some of the comments above.

    Its really disappointing to see not one, but two of the companies I have and continue to support go down this dirty path.

    Then again, is this any different then the stories (which turned out to be true) about gmail keeping emails databased even after you hit that “Delete” link so they can force feed you advertisements tailored to your specific needs?

    Simple solution which I’ve followed long before this came to light:

    NEVER CLICK ON ANY SPONSORED LINKS, be it at google or any of the other search engines.

    As for Dell… Tisk tisk, you’ve just lost any business I, and the IT firm I’m employed at has to offer. Be it not much, but the $20000 our firm spends on hardware will now go elsewhere. Your loss, not ours.


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  • Swoop,

    We would be making money from typo-squatting if we were showing a page of ads when someone types “linux.xom” into their browser. But we don’t. We just correct it. Typo-squatting usually refers to people who make money based on typos of trademark or misspellings of terms. We don’t do that.

    We make our money when someone types something like “Golf Clubs” into their browser. That’s functionality that wasn’t affected here. If you have Google’s “browse by name” functionality enabled in the toolbar then you go to Google. If you don’t, you go to us. That’s how we make money and isn’t impacted by this. What’s impacted are the things that don’t make us money but that our users like.

    We aren’t nearly as conflicted in this post as you believe. If we were, I wouldn’t have posted it.

  • iggy

    It’s really sad to see google going to evil route. I always use google and as part-time computer technician I always install firefox, with customer concern, change thier IE default search engine to google. Sad!

    After all, no matter what… evil is the de-facto route any corporate will choose to take, once they made to top.

  • Lorne Cohen

    This will solve all your google related pre-install problems

    I use it as the first thing I do when I implement a new batch of machines

  • DrNMR

    The best thing to do to get rid of this sort of stuff is to use Linux and FireFox. That’s it no problems, no hassle. No spy ware at all.

  • richard

    Uhh…. “go to add/remove programs and remove program XYZ”.

    How hard can that possibly be?

    Anyone unable to follow those blindly obvious instructions shouldn’t be using a computer.

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  • richard

    David Ulevitch:

    “You’re giving way more credit to the technical clue of computer users than they deserve.”

    Gee, not the brightest thing to say when pretty much all of your customers are *gasp* that’s right, computer users.

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  • Chris

    If you are using IE… how about removing your cookie-monster, memory-hogging toolbars (google, yahoo, etc) and instead just searching from the address bar.

    IE->Tools->Int Options->Advanced->Search from…

    Then choose your search engine of choice

    IE ->Tools -> Int Options -> Search/Settings

  • Andrew

    Wait…you are all mad that Dell replaced your normal browser error page with a more useful one? riiiiiight.

    If you type in digg.xom you normally get the Your an idiot unknown address page. With the Dell google tool you now get did you mean WOW thats horrible how dare they make it easier for us!!!!

  • Corporate just dropped a new Dell machine on my desk the other day, which I hadn’t used much yet. I read this article and about 3 seconds later, the offending software was removed.

    Some of my work involves technical support and I spend a lot of time talking to end-users. Your assessment suggesting that removing this software would be beyond their capacity is insulting, as well as just plain incorrect. OEMs have been installing crap on their computers as a way to lower out of the box costs for years, and people seem more than happy to accept this trade off.

    I’m speculating here, but I can’t imagine that the intersection of users who perceive this problem and can’t figure out how to solve it is very, very small.

  • Joshua Patterson

    Charter Communications does the same thing.

  • This is surprising, you’d expect with the profit they get they wouldn’t need to do this. Hopefully there’s a reason or explanation for it.

  • Capone

    Having just bought a new Dell laptop two weeks ago I feel I can add my experiences. Let me say now, I hate toolbars. Hate them. They are unnecessary and invasive in this age. I was quite annoyed when I saw GOOGLE, off all people, had now managed to insinuate themselves into my new computer.

    BUT, I personally found the toolbars relatively easy to uninstall, they appeared on the uninstall program menu and allowed me to delete from there. Although they did put me through one of the “Why have you uninstalled this add-on?” page. Unfortunately for me “It’s a useless, unwanted and unsolicited attempt to raise revenue in a questionable way” was not one of the choices…

  • Cheryl

    Why would anyone buy a Dell anyway? They are notoriously underhanded and, in fact, they are even being sued by the State of New York for their bait and switch tactics. I have had Dell – gone through Dell hell, and vowed never to own another one. Only the salespeople speak English, everyone else is in India, the Philippines, Malaysia, need I go on? I’m sure you all dealt with it – why is this even an issue? Don’t buy Dell.

  • dalewj

    like many people, i have the redirect, but i dont have any of the uninstall options listed on the page as ways to uninstall. I am stuck with the program that does not show up in uninstall/install programs, does not show up in manage add-ons, and is HARD to install on purpose.

  • It goes back to that “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely” maxim. Too much of a good thing leadds to dissent and “we know what’s best for you.

    Right, I’m not using google any more. Might even try to find the time to install Ubuntu if I can still use my design software.

  • Dileepa

    I get what you mean. In doing that, they are also taking away the choice from the user. Which is exactly what YOU did when you enabled address bar search by default. As a result of which, I stopped using OpenDNS. You should have disabled that option by default and enabled it only for users who chose to use it and not the other way around.

  • Mephron

    TheSpoon: the problem is you get people like Caspar who apparently don’t think about the fact they got their machine previous to this going into place (I don’t know if this is true of Caspar, but the fact that there are fairly clear instructions that could only be clearer by putting it into the ‘click x, click y, click z’ format), and now when they find it NOT there start to panic about the horrible evil.

    This is the problem with this – it’s going to start causing various forms of panic for people who understand just enough to be dangerous, but not enough to work through the issue.

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  • john

    This is something I noticed not only on my girlfriend’s new Dell (XP installed- just before Vista release), but on my friends new Gateway (Vista installed)- the preinstalled Google Deskbar/sidebar. It seems handy but there are a lot of security risks with making your personal desktop accessible to Google. May be I don’t understand, but does Google desk top automatically make your personal desktop web accessible to the general public? I notice that the Google Desktop is constantly active- indexing files in the task bar. I would personally un-install this software, but these are not my computers. Does anyone know what the memory usage on the google desktop indexing is? Am I right to assume the worse about this software? I already feel compromised enough having to use a MS OS. Last thing I need to worry about is my girlfriend getting a notice from RIAA for copying her cds to itunes after he desktop is googled.

  • Mark

    This I expect from Dell now which is why I stay away from them entirely and go with Lenovo first and HP second. But Google wtf.

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  • Swoop, OpenDNS is an optional service. To use it requires a conscious decision on the part of the user to modify his or her DNS entries to take advantage of the OpenDNS service. In doing so, you should understand what you’re getting, and agree to either help OpenDNS generate revenue by using their service, or not, and rely on your ISP’s DNS. It’s your choice, so you can’t complain.

    What Dell and Google are doing is totally different, in that Dell users are getting this installed out of the gate. Dell probably doesn’t add this as a line item on the invoice, and users won’t even know it’s there until it kicks in. That’s a HUGE difference between setting up a service yourself, and having it set up for you.

  • I’m sorry, but Google turned a dark corner a long time ago when they became complicity in the Chinese government’s censorship of their own citizens.

  • Roger

    I agree with both Swoop and rlparker – hair splitting about OpenDNS’s sources of revenue notwithstanding, this is Google/Dell encroaching on their business model, and OpenDNS is spreading a bit of FUD as a defense.

    Regardless of whether the Google software actually impacts the precise money-making mechanism of OpenDNS, the fact is that some parts of OpenDNS dont’ work as well on machines with this software installed. The OpenDNS “experience” is degenerated somewhat, which reduces their appeal, which overall diminishes their product, and that is bound to impact OpenDNS usage – which certainly DOES impact their revenue.

    David, insisting otherwise, and ignoring Swoon’s very pertinent points about deliberately using flawed logic in your argument, weakens your position IMHO. Then again, so does this entire conversation “alerting” the community.

    Having said all that, I love OpenDNS for one thing and one thing only – the speed. Every once in a while, I fat finger something and wind up on an ad page, and every so often I do follow the ad link that results. I sincerely hope that pays the bills for OpenDSN, since to me as a user the value of the entire operation is obvious and compelling. I don’t use OpenDNS as a search engine and have no interest in doing so; I find their search results overall to be inferior to Google’s (no surprise there, is it?)

    The new (to me, anyway) function of analyzing my queries more closely to see if it’s a Google software function makes me uncomfortable. I want OpenDNS to do one thing – look up DNS queries. That’s it. You’re good at it, please leave the rest alone.

    David, if I begin to distrust OpenDNS, I’ll move myself and my clients away in a hearbeat – it’s as easy to do as it was to begin using the service. And THAT will impact revenue much more than Google/Dell.

  • Brett

    Wait, how are you intercepting web requests? Don’t you just intercept DNS queries?

    If someone is redirected to how do you even know, as a DNS service?

  • Matt Mendick

    get a mac. use opendns. bingo bango no more problems

  • Brett

    Oh, I just realized you could report as your own server, check the URL when the request it made, and redirect it as needed.

  • Wow the timing of this post is just right.

    Only yesterday my sister bought a Dell laptop and when browsing on it I noticed the Dell/Google ad page. It filled the whole screen virtually even on a 1280×800 resolution. The must make a bomb off all those clicks. Let’s face it people who are new to computers and mostly beginners buy off Dell.. First time PC, family PC and they’re not going to know what they’re clicking are ads.

    It’s good to see OpenDNS have done something about it , nice work.


  • @andrew

    That’s the point actually but you have it backwards. Dell and Google ARE NOT providing any link to They could, it’s obvious. They could just redirect you. They don’t.

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  • @richard

    You’re right, I’m sorry. That wasn’t how I intended it to come out. I meant that general, non-tech savvy computer users can’t do it easily. I certainly didn’t mean it to be offensive.

    I know it sounds easy to “Add/Remove Programs” but when logged in as a non-administrator on an XP box you can’t do it. I tried here at the office. And a lot of people who have computers set up for them are configured (for their own good) to not be logged in as the administrator on the account.

    Also, why doesn’t the software have any indication of where it came from? Most software has a clear name or the company that installed it in the “Add/Remove Programs” control panel. The lack of that is what makes it feel like spyware.

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  • Sinzen

    Quick fix here.

    Open up add-ons for IE. Disable CBrowserHelperObject Object from Dell/Googe. Go into MSCONFIG, disable anything from Dell or Google within Services and check your Start Up items as well for Google desktop etc…Reboot. Head on over to your add/remove items and toss Google Desktop out the window. Also get rid of URLSearch Assistant and that other assistant which has no publisher tied to it (can’t remember the name right now). Reboot again. You should be good to go.

    *Note.: This is for any system from Dell that comes with the factory image. You can always reinstall the OS, hopefully without an OEM version, and that should take care of any issues or doubts that there are some bugged out items on the computer.


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  • ryan

    Newsflash, don’t buy a Dell.

    Another newsflash, use Firefox, or solve all your malware related problems (and more) in one fell swoop – get a Mac.

  • 123

    Um, is it really that hard to uninstall?

    I could do it in four clicks. In fact most digg users could do it. Seriously people. =/

    P.S. I like how you loosely used the term “spyware” for this article.

  • Tim

    I’ve seen a few of these branded search results, try;

    For example.

  • @123

    Digg users are way more technically elite than the average computer user.

  • I think OpenDNS has more of an agenda here than just watching out for regular Internet users. Google/Dell breaking their service most likely means lost revenue.

  • Other companies have been doing this for years. Microsoft, especially, has stuff like this in IE. All this hidden stuff makes a MSN search thing come up if you misspell anything. Use Firefox.

  • yafi-gomp

    Spoon said:

    “I think the hardest part of that is the ability to read which, if your on the internet, is pretty much a requirement.”

    Obviously, writing is not much of a requirement on the net. If it was, people would know the difference between “your” and “you’re”. 😉

  • “Digg users are way more technically elite than the average computer user.”

    I lol’d!

  • I was visiting my parents over the weekend and they have a H(d)ELL machine. The damn dell/google page drove me nuts. it kept coming up. I hate how HP and Dell get away with poluting their customers’ puters with spyware.

  • Wow

    Wow, I must be one of the only people who will actually sort through the multiple pages before I give up?

  • ows

    You are right guys! they are EVIL! google is going to conquer the world!

  • maxconfus

    404 browser redirects is large money. think m$ makes more than $500M annually, my estimate… I know a few smaller players who install toolbars that redirect 404’s and make 10’s of thousands per month in part time.

  • @Matt King

    We have an agenda to provide users a great experience. Google used to have that. That’s the point here.

    Compare this image from Danny Sullivan:

    What they show users who are locked in is on the left side. What they show users who can use an alternative is on the right side. Notice any differences? 🙂

  • The rate at which Google is terrorising the Internet is really frightening. I hope that it is not going to be in my lifetime that the worst happens.

  • @David Ulevitch

    What they show users who are locked in is on the left side. What they show users who can use an alternative is on the right side. Notice any differences? 🙂

    That’s not my point. My point is that this blog post seems to call out Google/Dell for taking advantage of Internet users with this technology, and I think the underlying reason for this post is more than that. I don’t believe OpenDNS is some kind of consumer watchdog looking out for us. If Google/Dell didn’t break the OpenDNS service, I doubt we’d be reading about this.

  • FearMonger2K7

    hhahahha “Browser Address Error Redirector”. it doesn’t get any more obviously named than that, except maybe if they named it “Remove This App If You DOnt Like Browser Typos To Be Redirected!!!”

    Your blog readers are giving “way more credit to the technical clue of [opendns bloggers]” than you deserve if you think a program with such an obvious name and instructions is anything close to spyware. Obviously you guys dont read a lot of pr0n and have to remove spyware daily. I suggest starting with some bangbus.

    I don’t even know what opendns is, but it’s pretty obvious they’re scared of OEMs pulling these kinds of tricks and taking away from their marketshare.

  • Half of the comments to this article are ridiculous. Refusing to buy Dell hardware just because of an easily-removed software package is stupid. Are you really willing to pay more to get the same hardware from someone else?

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but the first thing I do when I receive a new Dell system here in the office is to reinstall it from the restore CD. Anyone who doesn’t reimage an OEM system is just asking for trouble…

  • Techie

    Very interesting article. Companies that make “things easier” only really make things worse. Customers that don’t understand how a computer works or just don’t want to understand will never go to “Add/Remove Programs.” The name “Browser Address Error Redirector” will only convince this customer group to never uninstall this program or create some doubt on the decision to delete it.

    My view on this subject is coming from the line of work I do. I work with these customers everyday and help them fix things they don’t understand. Most of these people think the address bar is the Google search bar or some other search bar.

    This will only increase frustration with my customers and myself when trying to troubleshoot over the phone. Something that could take a few minutes over the phone could involve a trip to there place of business.

    My two cents or the cost of the customers.

  • @Matt King wrote: I don’t believe OpenDNS is some kind of consumer watchdog looking out for us. If Google/Dell didn’t break the OpenDNS service, I doubt we’d be reading about this.

    That might be the case but it’s still true. We found out about this issue BECAUSE we are OpenDNS and our users were asking about it.

    It’s still not right for Google to be doing this to users. The fact that we give users a better experience just makes it that much easier to point out; there’s no denying that.

  • I just got a new Dell and nothing like that was installed. It came with URL Assistant and Search Assistant, but I uninstalled that just to be anal. Otherwise, any URL errors caused a normal error page – in my case my Squid proxy’s “could not be retrieved” page.

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  • I just read the article and am rather disgusted. I could have sworn Google had a “do no evil” clause in their Privacy statement, and this reads pure evil. Just because Dell is having a hell of a time turning a profit, doesn’t mean you have to sleep with them Google. I was just starting to like Dell again too for the Ubuntu preinstallations, and now this. Now I like Google less… and well, Dell is back to where they were in my rankings.

    Thanks for the great article, and I can’t thank you enough for your great product. I included OpenDNS in a “Safe surfing” article I published on my website, and I think its one of the more important ones.

    Thanks again,

  • Dennin Lucherini

    Google is starting to become to powerful!


  • John B

    Google has “jumped the shark” so to speak to chase reveneu instead of relevance. This is SHAMEFUL behavior.

    GOOGLE is NOW EVIL (i.e., more interested in money than a good user experience). I really dad hopes that Google actually would be different, but instead they have turned out to be just as revenue hungry as everyone else.

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  • Elanor

    On our computers in our office, this is installed, except there are 2 programs in the Add/Remove programs bar. One called “Search Assist” and another called “URL Assist”

  • Hi everyone… Here’s a way to decide for yourself if what Google is doing is wrong.

    Use the smell test. Does this smell bad? Is it giving users a good experience?
    (and if you want to see ours)

    The first is what people see who are LOCKED IN to the service. The last two are what users see when they have choice and can pick the best service or product in an open market. That’s why this is spyware. It’s the only way to get away with it.

    Ironic that this is similar to what Google complains about to the Department of Justice with regards to IE7 and Microsoft.

    When you have choice and an open market you get a great experience. When you are locked-in you don’t. That’s what this is about.

  • Ian

    I agree this is bad, but the one point i would argue against in this article is how hard it is to remove.

    I mean come on guys. They tell you where to go and what to click on to remove it. So dont slam them by trying to imply people arent going to remove it because the name is weird, when google explicitly tells you what name to click on to remove it.

    Other then that one point, i agree with the rest. This peice of software is crap for the user and borders on being spyware. It benefits no one except dell/google.

  • Jeff

    This story has been posted on several blogs — both about Gateway and Dell – last week. Did you get this story from any of those blogs, and why didn’t you give credit?

  • Matt

    It is simple. If you buy a Dell product, you are supporting schemes like this. The installation of ridiculous software on those computers is nothing new. If you disagree with their business decisions, don’t support the company (don’t buy their products).

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  • This is actually not as easy as going to Add/Remove programs on all Vista systems. My Dell Latitude D620 provides neither of the programs listed for removal in the “What’s This” link on the error page. I instead had to go to the Manage Add-ons section of Internet Options to make it stop working. It’s a little convoluted, but you can turn off the Dell browser redirect.

  • j

    Does anyone have more technical details on how this pre-installed application works that they can share?

    The only way I can think this works is if the google/dell application is intercepting DNS queries before passing them onto the actual recursive DNS server.

    The way I understand it, if I am an open DNS user, is that whatever is typed into the address bar is queried against the OpenDNS’s servers. Open DNS never returns NXDOMAIN to the browser you either redirect or display an openDNS web page.

    Address bar (type microsoft.xom) –> google –> NXDOMAIN (not returned to browser) –> google/dell results page returned to browser.

    Does anyone know if that is how it works? If so, this is appalling.

  • Jeff,

    We did see it on the Google Operating System blog when looking for info. I’ll update the post with a link to it.

    That’s the only place where I saw an explicit mention of it and the omission was an oversight on my part.

  • Just when you think Google learns its lesson on “do no harm” it harms again and censorship of everybody but them is okay for Google and Dell.

    When will they learn to be what they say?

  • mlb85in

    U cant say that dell might go ahead and install that google search in IE but it would be upto the user to decide if he is going to use it or not it is easy to install/unistall anything in a computer no one makes it difficut

  • Mason

    I am so glad someone is reporting on this! This is my experience: I bought a Dell laptop, and on first boot it prompts me to accept the user license for the google desktop and IE toolbar. I DECLINED, and it reported it was uninstalling itself. Guess what, the google desktop was still there front and central! So I went into add/remove programs and took it off myself. Then I opened IE and got all the google as home page and default search for IE. Fine, I can change that too. Except that it does not take. I can no longer change my browser’s default search! No matter what I do, my searches and bad URLs take me to Google. I got so frustrated I had to pave the entire system and reinstall windows from scratch (fortunately I have MSDN subscription and install media). The more I thought about it the more I could not support this sort of conspiracy and returned the machine to Dell. The last I will ever buy from them.

  • Mason

    Oh and big thanks Sinzen! I would have done that had I known. (I was glad to ditch the OEM install altogether though, for all the other crapware installed.)

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  • Ilgaz

    First ever thing to break Google’s credibility and trust on technical/privacy concious users were: Google Toolbar . Go check the Slashdot posts before and after that needless invasion of privacy.

    The second: Gmail. When they offered deal to read (or render) private mails,whether they are precious or not just for a lousy outdated POP3 protocol and smtp, that was the second hit. That was the time when people seriously questioned them and both EFF since they silenced and put a google search to their site while perl geniuses could code for them free.

    Third: Adwords. It is beyond anything you can imagine, I am horrified by the stuff advertised on Adwords and the “click here to install virus” ad didn’t surprise me at all.

    You know what? Once upon a time there was an online giant which postmasters/admins had to force unfilter their horrible IP space just because it is widely used. They also took a great browser and killed it in just 2 years especially because of privacy concerns. In 1995, if you said openly that they would be dead, entire userbase would run away, people would laugh at you. See what happens now.

    I started to think about blocking Google on my machine/network because I really started to get nervous here. I am not buying a $2000 proactive device to a house either.

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  • Ilgaz

    I don’t say it is exactly the same thing but Google Desktop for OS X seriously drove people and serious bloggers like John Gruber into panic because of needless system attachments, dangerous type of places to install and the weird installer.

    See for more info.

    If there is a team/suit team deciding these types of acts, Google should really get rid of them very quick. There is a possibility to make Microsoft an Internet giant which they always dreamed of but never succeeded. A single, credible proof can change things in matter of days on Internet these times.

    Again: THAT IS NOT SPYWARE, it is just pushing the boundaries and security too much.

  • What’s surprising about this? Dell has always included crapware on new systems. And I think that the author had overreacted just a bit when he kept repeating that this ‘thing’ cannot be removed. It’s removed like any other program in Windows. It even has a nice descriptive name.

    Why is anyone using IE7 at all? For the spyware? If the user was concerned about spyware he would be using Firefox. Or do like me, and switch to Ubuntu.

  • Mark Bradley

    Do no evil… That is the mantra!

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  • Nick

    I also can’t find “Browser Address Error Redirector” or the other one in my Add/Remove Programs!

    It’s REALLY SPYWARE! I found it in Hijack This though.

    Boy that sucks.

    Reminds me of Sony’s rootkit thing.

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  • look-the-other-way

    since Dell knows the serial number/id tag for the computer,
    for most home users, they know your name and shipping address and a whole host of other info.

    -and you can bet that data is up for grabs too in a direct feed to your friends at google — after all, it’s just for better ad targeting, right? what’s the harm in that? what’s not to trust? what could go wrong?

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  • JeanInMontana

    Ewww!!! Let’s see, browser redirects, gee that is the reason we have a tool like HiJack This!. Redirect/hijack same freekin thing in my book. I help people all the time with this sort of malware problem it didn’t used to come from the manufacturer of their PC or Google. There is going to be negative comment from the antimalware community on this one I’m sure.

    This is evil; and the last day I “help make Google better”.

  • nice posting!!!


  • Tascien

    Well, google is a publicly traded co. as a PLC, they are expected to increase revenue at any cost. With shares trading at $500, there is so much pressure to increase revenues.

    My DELL PC takes 5 min to connect to the net because pre-installed programs are loading. I have installed another OS at a different partition, although i am not getting the sound, because i don’t know how to manually install drivers…

    I AM SCARED GOING TO MY PARTITION C. Really! the crapware have completely emprisoned my beloved PARTITION C. so, I have left that partition, and I come there only If I want to listen to music. I am worried somebody could be watching me on PARTITION C.

  • hm…im from germany, and here dell isnt that popular…
    why do americans buy these??

    here they are very expensive in comparison to other brands!

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  • ironic

    i see many frogs still living in the well….

    how many out there are running million dollar companies but have no time to even figure out what’s a control panel?

    To a user, if they can work on their pretty presentations and spreadsheets, they don’t give half a crap what else is installed in there. And in many cases, if you are the IT ‘elite’ in the office, then removing/preventing/fixing spywares and viruses is YOUR problem/job, not theirs.

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  • Oh No. Deja-Vu. That’s exactly what LOP spyware used to do! I remember that I nearly formatted my computer back then because of stuff like that.

    On the other hand, I would never buy a Dell Computer, so I guess I am safe for now.

  • googlelover

    David, I appreciate your thorough attempt to jump the bandwagon and make Google look like the bad guy. However, it’s clear that in this situation, the real bad guy is DELL. I have NO idea why you titled this article “Google turns the page… in a bad way” — why not DELL? The fact that this article is obviously biased to make Google look like the evil one pretty much discredits anything you have to say.

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  • Ilgaz

    Million dollar companies doesn’t buy ordinary Dell Desktops and they have million dollar Unix/Windows/Solaris based proactive security watching all clients down to wallpaper changes.

    Try to read again: It is home user who thinks removing any pre-installed software by vendor will “break” their computer and it is coming pre installed- pre enabled on purchased desktops.

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  • Well, does anybody have some statistics on how many people in the world are really aware of Domain name industry and related businesses? IMO this kind of things (ads targeting) will continue booming till the time people remain unaware of Domain name industry and related businesses. Becoz mostly illiterates only click on those ads And the literates! may continue making money out of it.

  • @googlelover

    You haven’t read this post then. Google is the enabler here. They’re the ones doing this. The same URL works for Sony, eMachines and Gateway.

    They paid Dell a ton of money to get their software installed. Now they need to recoup that cost. This is how they are recouping it, I think.

  • fonz

    Tools -> Internet Options -> Advanced -> Do Not Search From The Address Bar

  • Well… If you switch to Firefox you solve all of your problems 😉

  • Focx

    The question is: will Dell install this on the new Ubuntu-installed computers as well 😀

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  • isn’t this just gangster on gangster violence, though? why should any of us give a rat’s hind quarter to protect opendns or sitefinder or “ventio nxr” from incursions by dell and google?

  • Administraitor

    Searching for ‘microsoft.xom’ at Google about 15 minutes ago turned up ‘’ (offers to install some “cleaner” on your computer , don’t go to the page!) and this page at number 3 in the results. Searching for it a minute ago turned up the same site (the one that offers to install something on your computer) at number one and no result for this page. Both times didn’t turn up a link to

  • Paul: No, it’s not. Way to mention “Ventio NXR” though, a product (that nobody has ever heard of) which you have a financial incentive to endorse as a Nominum shareholder. 🙂

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  • @Lev- There’s nothing wrong with the google toolbar, sure, some may consider it “spying” or whatever, but that’s not the problem here…my new Acer didn’t come installed with the Google Toolbar, it came pre-installed with Google Desktop, and the URL Redirector software, and some other minor stuff (CD burner stuff, etc…backup software…oh, and can’t forget about that “hidden” recovery partition :P)…

    @GatewayGuy- That’s what was occuring with me. Acer had a “homepage” set for some search page, “powered by AOL” (gasp, not Google?)…but yea, and my hosts file was blocking some “in-line avertisements” and was stuffing up the page loading…that’s how I noticed. So I guess they haven’t fixed that bug you speak of 🙂 haha. And well, I dont know, when Acer called me back after I got disconnected (actually, I hung up on them, but how kind to call me back? lol) the number on callerID showed as “Gateway” so that’s what I was figuring…

    @Xigre- they aren’t THAT bad, after you Decrapify them 😉 Or, refer to the above; regarding the WIndows refund…and well hey, there’s nothing stopping you from 1) getting your refund, 2) formatting the hard drive(s)/partition(s) completely, 3) buying a “clean” copy of Windows from the shelf at your local software store, and use that…

    And well, as far as the “owner” of this URL Redirection software…I have no idea, I doubt it is google though…Dell probably paid some guy to create it 😛

    @Alexandar Tzanov- that’s when you go in and change their home/search page 😉 I did it when I went to my dad’s house..he hasn’t asked me about it since…hell, I even loaded up OpenDNS on his sytem since I know he uses PayPal and eBay to buy goodies. Haven’t heard any, “why does this look different?” gripes yet 😉

    P.S. I heard Dell is great, if you buy a PC from them that has Windows on it, if you call em up, and tell them you don’t wish to use Windows, they will send you a refund, after they cancel your Windows activation code ofcourse…so I heard a couple months back in the blog-o-sphere…

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  • Did you really expect more out of google? They are just as shady as people think microsoft is and have contributed far less.

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  • mb


    Please have an honest discussion about this, and don’t restrict the conversation to just domain typos.

    Both OpenDNS and Google/Dell redirect the user to ads when they type keywords into the address bar. As we saw with the AOL/Search data leak, hundreds of thousands of people do this all the time.

    Your discussion is less than honest when you only focus on domain typos, and not keywords — both are entered by mistake into the address bar, and both OpenDNS and Google/Dell redirect the user to ads.

    The big difference which you’ve been completely silent about is that Google prominently displays what’s going on and how the user can change that behavior if they don’t like it. OpenDNS doesn’t disclose anything, and many users (such as employees of an organization) have *no way to change* that behavior with OpenDNS.

    For you to criticize Google for this practice, when it’s Google who is being open and honest while OpenDNS is rather sneaky about the whole thing, is the height of hypocrisy on your part.

  • @mb

    I think we’re having an honest discussion. Let’s look at the what you say:

    Your discussion is less than honest when you only focus on domain typos, and not keywords — both are entered by mistake into the address bar, and both OpenDNS and Google/Dell redirect the user to ads.

    First, both services point them to webpages. And both have ads. The point of my blog post wasn’t which is better (ours is) but that Google used to be putting the end-user experience first and foremost. They aren’t doing that anymore. That’s why they’ve turned a page. They are putting their partnership with Dell first, at the expense of the user-experience. And because users are locked-in.

    You then say:

    The big difference which you’ve been completely silent about is that Google prominently displays what’s going on and how the user can change that behavior if they don’t like it. OpenDNS doesn’t disclose anything, and many users (such as employees of an organization) have *no way to change* that behavior with OpenDNS.

    This makes no sense. OpenDNS is a service that people choose to use. We don’t have any software that installs anything on your computer. If a company decides to use OpenDNS, then that means that someone has made the decision to use OpenDNS. Companies aren’t ISPs. There’s a reason we don’t sell to ISPs and that’s a big part of it.

    And you conclude by saying:

    For you to criticize Google for this practice, when it’s Google who is being open and honest while OpenDNS is rather sneaky about the whole thing, is the height of hypocrisy on your part.

    I think you switched OpenDNS and Google in that sentence, or you don’t understand how OpenDNS works. In fact, that you can even comment and have a dialog with me on this blog refutes exactly what you just said. And, of course, at the top of every page we have a link at the top that says “Why am I here?” It doesn’t get much more transparent than that.

    Thanks for the comment, I hope I cleared some things up. 🙂

  • Google is turning in to another Microsoft.

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  • Harry

    I have to side with David on this one. Mainly because I’ve supported many computers that still have MSN/Dell Google as the home page simply because the user didn’t know how to change it. The difference with OpenDNS is that you have to be somewhat technically savvy just to set it up. Or at least smart enough to follow some screenshots.

    To say that uninstalling for most people is easy is akin to saying your cell phone contract is written in plain English. Sure the words are English, but it takes some legal understanding to make sense of it all.

    And to all you people that say David is just mentioning this because of his affiliation with OpenDNS, Duh! But ask yourself this. How would you feel if OpenDNS struck up a deal with Dell and every computer came with OpenDNS’s servers pre-configured? Would that be ok?

  • If Google had made their toolbar (and search “enhancing” features) much easier to “un-install”, people would’ve had a real choice here.

    Since it appears to be largely “built-in”, the average user has little to say in this.

    As a rule of thumb, ethically speaking, users should always have the choice… and the final word.

  • Interesting read guys! 🙂

    *Pingback from*

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  • Thanks for exposing this issue in such detail.

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  • So, about this transparency business. I see nobody noticed the similar “What’s this” link at the top of the Dell/Sony/eMachines/Gateway pages. Hmm, just like OpenDNS! This nullfies the entire argument. There’s a link that says what it is and how to remove it.

    Of course, I’m sure most new computer users will not notice the link and/or not care and just deal with it and find their way. And I do think it’s crummy that they’re engaging in this practice. But, when you buy a chea.. er.. low-cost computer, you get what you pay for.

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  • This is very disturbing that Google is involved in such underhanded and “bottom of the barrel” tactics, just to secure their place as the default search engine in Internet Explorer on Microsoft Windows Vista. They’re clearly more afraid of Microsoft than I had thought, if this is their way of protecting their Web search dominance.

    It’s disturbing enough they force a browser toolbar down your proverbial throat in the Google Toolbar (which I do find useful and do use myself) when you purchase a new computer under the guise of being helpful, but to then also install a separate program with seemingly “helpful” program names like URL Assistant, Browser Address Error Redirector or GoogleAFE without any user consent is absolute garbage. It’s like VeriSign’s SiteFinder, except it’s worse because (a) it’s a client-side program installed on one’s computer whereas VeriSign simply wildcarded the root zone files for its managed generic TLDs “.com”, “.net”, and “.org” and (b) it was never asked for in the first place. True, SiteFinder was never asked for either, but at least they didn’t junk up your computer and Windows registry with extraneous entries. It’s exactly like what Claria’s GAIN advertising software did.

    To top it off, they take up the entire screen “above the fold” with sponsored advertising links of some sort, either on top or on the side. That’s not helpful. I realize they want to make money so I don’t have a problem with the sponsored links, but they could put some at the bottom of the page, below the fold, and also do what OpenDNS does (if they have to have this in the first place, that is) and David has suggested by putting a helpful ‘Did you mean ?’ flag at the top. (As an aside, do they share the ad revenue with the OEMs like Dell, eMachines, and Gateway or do they pay them a huge, guaranteed and lump-sum fee then keep the ad revenue for themselves? Or do they do both?) It’s also not exactly the same as what ISPs, either, because they presumably set up an advanced zone file or series of zone files at the DNS level.

    Besides which, there are other ways Google could’ve done this (again, if they felt it was absolutely critical), such as editing the computer’s DNS servers to use Google’s or the computer manufacturer’s and setting up their redirection services server-side at the DNS level, like OpenDNS does and some ISPs do. Oh, and this would be in addition to placing ads better and using helpful flags – or just simply redirecting typo’ed domains!

    Some have suggested we follow the money, and believe me, that’s the first thing I thought of when I first started reading this post. OpenDNS does display some contextually-targeted advertising (like through Google’s AdSense program, though David can correct me if I’m wrong) when you type a domain that isn’t resolving temporarily or doesn’t exist, but they display it on the side. And, the key difference is, they don’t do it for typos like the mentioned “digg.xom” so I see no conflict here.

    OpenDNS is providing a great service – and one users have made a conscious decision to set up, unlike Google’s installation of seemingly harmlessly named browser objects. My only hope is that OpenDNS is already profitable because if they’re not, I fear what could happen is we may lose this great service if the company doesn’t have a viable (and by this I mean profitable) business model going forward.

    My more-than-two cents. 😉


    P.S. I remember reading a number of years (that same CNET story, at the time) of Dell and Google’s new partnership. It seemed so innocuous and I just assumed it was a great way to get the Google Toolbar and Google Web search out front and centre with the pending launch of Windows Vista. They wanted to continue being the default search engine and continuing to serve up relevant ads with great search results to as many people as possible. I never imagined in my wildest dreams they would install such a nasty parasite like GoogleAFE (what does the ‘AFE’ stand for anyway?) to grab even *more* revenue by typosquatting. That’s essentially what they’re doing – and the difference between them or a company like Internet REIT, Marchex, Name Media, or – is they don’t need to buy any domain names. No expenses. It’s a cash windfall!

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  • Its true what g0ogle is doing may be considered as spyware, but there are two sides to the story so lets hear g0ogle and dell’s side 😉

  • Kevin Severud

    In case it hasn’t been mentioned here yet (I did try to check but the page has become quite long) a recent posting in the Direct2Dell blog by Michelle Pearcy points to the support doc about how to uninstall the URL Assistant:

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  • I’m just an average-not-very-computer-savy person who uses the net to shop, research & learn stuff. Well, what I’ve learned is that google & dell are scumbags, turning into MONOPOLIES! My homepage is jacked on a regular basis (despite using software programs that are supposed to prevent it) & tonight internet explorer ‘couldn’t find eBay’ so I got the dell/google pages full of shoddy ads for crap even idiots wouldn’t buy. I will ROT IN HELL before I ‘google’ anything OR buy another dell computer. I’ve used Dogpile for months now; at least there’s a cute little pup to look at.

  • mikaluch

    Sorry to post so late on this, but I just joined this site and couldn’t pass up saying something about this. Before I ever saw this thread, the first thing I did with my openDNS account was block This is because I am sick and tired of slaving over firewall rules to try to achieve effective outbound filtering, only to have my logs flooded with message after message to google (sorry, I won’t capitalize the name of a spyware proliferer). This after changing all of my default search engines away from google and attempting to remove google from all of the search lists on my machines. If you don’t think google uses spyware tactics, you are not filtering outbound traffic, or you are not reading your logs. And yes, I know I could just drop the google traffic without logging, but once you start dropping logs of traffic that shouldn’t be there, you are headed for trouble. There is a reason that google knows more than anyone else about everything, and its not because they are minding their own business.

  • I suffered a similar experience using a Sony. What’s even more stupid than DAve’s experience is that the google re-direction actually stopped me from seeing any websires at all. After my wife searched something on google I typed in a web address. From that point on, the web browser would always add in a google url ( in front of whatever web page I was trying to access. So if I typed in it would direct me to This is ridiculous, as none of these urls are valid. I never asked to have this stupid pre-fix attached to the urls I type in, I just want to type them in myself. I was able to get rid of it by de-installing the google toolbar and a programme called something like “google windows” application.
    Bottom line, not only is google installing this re-directing software on pc, but the stupid redirecting software doesn’t actually re-direct you anywhere.

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  • Paul

    I don’t have a Dell but Google hijacked my IE 7. When ever I change my start page to anything other than, it changes back. I’ve tried IE tools, Spybot S&D, regedit, Desktop properties, and everything else I can think of or find on the net. I even went so far as to edit my hosts file to block Google. Evidently, there’s a Google created malware program on my PC. Damn thier eyes! They’re getting as cocky as Microsoft.

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